Vista Murrieta girls volleyball team sweeps Corona del Mar in Division 1 playoff opener – Press Enterprise

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MURRIETA — Vista Murrieta girls volleyball coach Ed Taitano believed his team played cautiously at the beginning of Thursday evening’s CIF Southern Section playoff opener. So, Taitano gave his players a reminder when the Broncos trailed 17-14 in the first set.

“I don’t know if it was CIF nerves or what, but we had no rhythm or fluidity to start that match,” Taitano said. “I told them they have a green light, so don’t hold back. Just go.”

The Broncos put their feet on the gas and closed that opening frame with an 11-4 run. Vista Murrieta never let up and eventually swept Corona del Mar 25-21, 25-17, 25-19. The Broncos travel to LA Marymount for a Division 1 quarterfinal match Wednesday.

Vista Murrieta (20-10) played with a bit less pressure Wednesday night. Last season, teams in Division 1 had to win their opener to secure a berth in the CIF State playoffs. The Broncos lost their first-rounder and missed out. The Division 1 field was trimmed to 12 teams this season, and a late revision to the CIF Southern Section playoff bulletin stated all teams in the elite division would move on to state, win or lose.

“I do think it helped us played a little more relaxed,” junior setter Molly Wilson said. “But we’re not really thinking about state right now. We want to go as far as possible in CIF.”

The first set was extremely tight and featured 14 tied scores and five lead changes. Corona del Mar libero Molly Won served up two aces, helping the Sea Kings surge ahead 17-14. That’s when Taitano used his second timeout. Juliette Russell got the decisive run started for Vista Murrieta with a big solo block. Russell and Claire Little each had two kills down the stretch to help the Broncos rally and take the first set.

“I think our serving really helped us make that comeback,” said Wilson, whose ace put the Broncos up 23-20. “We just came out and fought to win every point.”

Outside hitters Reka Monteleone and Little helped Vista Murrieta race out to an 8-3 lead in the second set. The Broncos continued to be aggressive with their serves, as Wilson, Chloe Scheer, Monteleone and Russell combined for five aces in that frame.

Corona del Mar continued to battle in the third set, and the Sea Kings held a 14-11 advantage over the Broncos. Russell and Little delivered back-to-back solo blocks, kickstarting another big run for Vista Murrieta. Little, the freshman phenom already committed to BYU, had an impressive stretch — a block, a kill and three aces — to continue the rally. Monteleone had a pair of kills to help the Broncos get to match point.

Little finished with 10 kills, three aces and three blocks and had double-digit digs.

“I do get nervous, but I just put on a smile and help everyone else instead of worrying about my game,” Little said of her high school playoff debut. “Volleyball is not about one player. It’s about the team.”

Monteleone had 12 kills and four aces. Russell finished with six kills and two blocks.

Molly Joyce and Nikki Senske had 12 and 11 kills, respectively, for Corona del Mar, but that represented 92 percent of the team’s kill total Wednesday.

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